Ness Nite will play First Avenue’s 7th Street Entry on Friday, March 23. Submitted photo

Best Picks: March 8–21

Updated: March 14, 2018 - 9:19 am

What to do downtown after work

Head in the clouds

Ness Nite spends a lot of time dreaming.

The 22-year-old artist’s debut album has her diving into different pages of her diary, each track putting in her a different role, from a confident lover and horoscope-reading witch to a social media-fueled dreamer and an anxious tightrope walker.

Nite, who uses a stage name, falls confidently into each role. The former Minneapolis resident said her night owl persona is more focused on pursuing her dreams.

“(It’s) a version of myself that doesn’t have all the insecurities and random stuff through my mind. (Nite is) a focused version of myself,” she said.

It’s not a confidence she always had. On her first release, an EP dubbed “Nite Time,” her voice sinks back a bit more into the production. Two years later, Nite is still making what she calls “braless music,” or music that feels like taking your bra off.

“I gained a lot of confidence from my first project, and I think it’s really evident in my new album. When I do rap, I think it’s way more aggressive, more confident,” she said.

On “Dream Girl,” her debut album, Nite realizes some of her dreams. She sounds bold even when she’s talking about mental illness (“Tightrope”) or bragging about how strong her love is (“My Love”). The record was produced by Mike Frey and recorded in his basement studio in South Minneapolis and then mixed and mastered by Alex Tumay back in New York where she lives now.

ness nite 1 webNite finds power in dreaming, which gives her the ability to imagine herself fully realized. On “Magic B—-,” she defends her creative energy, something that’s independent of men, while working on her next spell or vision (“Too busy dreaming / you can’t go the places I go”). On “Watercolor Roses,” Nite rap-sings about inventing her own beauty over a beat right out of a Nintendo video game. Her central metaphor is about “living your life how you want to.”

“It’s a metaphor for something beautiful and manufactured, but it’s not supposed to be bad,” she said.

Nite’s strong self-awareness continues on songs like “Tightrope,” which has her rapping about not having everything figured out, though she knows she’s making the right steps in her life (“I know it don’t seem like / I’ve found my peace but I / been walking more steady every second since I left / steady picking up the piece I find in every step”).

The 12-track album showcases Nite’s dreamy voice in nearly as many emotions and styles. Connecting the songs is Nite’s multi-dimensional personality, unapologetic female energy and hustle on a higher plane.

Nite will play First Avenue’s 7th Street Entry on Friday, March 23. The 18-plus show will be hosted by Mica Grimm and will feature local musicians DJ Sophia Eris, Izell Pyramid and Dua.

Nite released “Dream Girl” on March 2 via POW Recordings.

Coffee saloon

A lot of high-end coffee shops are looking like high-end restaurants these days, with liquor licenses, food menus and Instagrammable décor. Hodges Bend is their spiritual successor. I’d say the best description of the restaurant and cocktail bar is a coffee saloon.

You’ll find the coffeehouse-restaurant right at the border of Minneapolis and St. Paul near an LRT station. You’ll know when you’ve gone far enough on University Avenue when you see an apartment building with St. Paul in big letters.

Inside, Hodges Bend looks like a Western-themed bar with chandeliers made of glass bottles and a large wooden bar. But the focus is on the coffee. Hodges Bend serves its own line of beans, along with a couple different kinds of cold-brewed coffees, drinks with various brewing methods and an espresso bar menu. The coffee and tonic ($5) should probably be the next big (non-alcoholic) brunch cocktail, but there are plenty of real cocktails to enjoy. The Clover Club ($10) is a frothy raspberry-infused dream of a drink with gin and lemon. The bar serves a blend of classic and signature cocktails.

Coffee supposedly suppresses hunger, but if hunger strikes, Hodges Bend has a curried fried chicken ($15) to snack on. Its burger ($12), which comes topped with house bacon, American cheese and a house burger sauce, is nearly decadent. Hodges Bend is the coffee lover’s paradise, and, better yet, many haven’t caught on yet (it only opened in January).   

  Cappuccino tasting all like Nutter Butters today.   A post shared by Northern Coffeeworks (@northerncoffeeworks) on

Taco takeover

What if all the food groups — tacos, beer and coffee — played nice? It would probably look a lot like Northern Coffeeworks’ taco takeover and barista competition coming up on Friday, March 23 from 7 p.m.–10 p.m. Along with coffee connoisseurs slinging the best-looking lattes in town, the coffee bar near the Mill District is letting Jorge Guzman take over the kitchen. The James Beard Award-nominated chef will serve cochinita pibil, chorizo-potato and refried lentil tacos ($5 each), along with sikil pak ($7), a traditional pumpkin seed dip from his hometown in the Yucatan. If that wasn’t enough to get you in the door, then Niko Tonks, the head brewer of Fair State Brewing Cooperative, will be collaborating with Guzman to release a one-time special beer for the event. DJ Stepmom will be spinning tunes for the event at 1027 Washington Ave. S.